There is no denying we live in a society where most of everything we know, see, and understand can be found through all avenues of social media; health and fitness information is no exception. Through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and simple every day interactions with people there is always someone on your social media feed, in a grocery store, or at the gym who we compare ourselves to, either unconsciously or consciously.
In the realm of fitness especially, there is a strong tendency to compare ourselves to others; most of us are guilty of it, myself included. This comparison brings up an important question: Is comparing yourself to others compromising your own fitness success?
The answer goes beyond a simple “yes’ or “no”. While some comparisons may motivate to change your exercise habits, the opposite can be said as well. Comparison may sabotage your exercise habits and the success you already have accomplished. Everyone will react and adapt to comparison in different ways, but it’s important look at the potential effects and recognize ways to lessen negative associations and reap positivity in regard to your own workouts.
Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy
When we make progress with our fitness goals and aspirations it gives us a great feeling of self-confidence and increased self-efficacy (ability to complete a goal). It lets our mind and body become more comfortable and ready to take on more, whether it be in the gym, at home, or life in general. However, when we start to make unrealistic comparisons to others our mind may switch directions. Thoughts about how we’re not good enough or aren’t measuring up run through our heads. This takes a toll on what our mind thinks we can do, or rather, can’t do, and begins creating a negative environment. Our self-confidence and self-efficacy drop and, as a result, our overall wellbeing is compromised as we remove focus on improving our fitness relative to our own self and focus our misdirected attention on others.
Instead of comparing yourself to others in the gym, compare yourself to how you were yesterday, last week, last month, or last year. If you have been seeing results from your own perspective, again, you are able to build confidence and build upon your healthy lifestyle. If you haven’t been seeing results, you can start anew with the help from professionals in the field of fitness and healthy living. Tell yourself to trust the process of creating a positive environment; it will only help you reach your fitness goals.
“Look how much weight she's lifting.”
“Did you see how long he was able to run on the treadmill?”
Notice anything similar with these two thoughts? There is no mention of the word “I”. They are our own thoughts, and yet, we aren’t even mentioning ourselves. These thoughts are more common in the gym as we can’t help but see other people around us exercising. It’s hard not to compare when in a gym setting and it’s sometimes easier said than done.
However, shifting the “they” focus to a “me” or “I” focus can be extremely beneficial.
Focusing on your workout session and creating a mental state that is directed towards positive self-talk and visualizing proper movements for your lift, run, walk, or bike, can bring your thoughts back to you instead of the person next to you. This positive mental state can translate to a positive exercise session and bring down other thoughts of comparison.
I came across a quote from a book that resonated with me about comparison and it translates well into the world of health and fitness.
"Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction…strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care of yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality."
– Jordan Peterson
Next time you're at the gym, the grocery store, or scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, create thoughts focused on you, create actions that will help you achieve your fitness goals, and create a better version of yourself to help increase your confidence and self-efficacy.
Key Word: Comparison